A place: Theresienstadt. A unique place of propaganda which Adolf Eichmann called the "model ghetto", designed to mislead the world and Jewish people regarding its real nature, to be the ... See full summary »
Claude Lanzmann directed this 9 1/2 hour documentary of the Holocaust without using a single frame of archive footage. He interviews survivors, witnesses, and ex-Nazis (whom he had to film secretly since they only agreed to be interviewed by audio). His style of interviewing by asking for the most minute details is effective at adding up these details to give a horrifying portrait of the events of Nazi genocide. He also shows, or rather lets some of his subjects themselves show, that the anti-Semitism that caused 6 million Jews to die in the Holocaust is still alive and well in many people who still live in Germany, Poland, and elsewhere.Written by
Gene Volovich <email@example.com>
Srebnik and Podchlebnik were not the only Jewish survivors of the Chelmno Extermination Camp. Today we know at least 9 by name, but not all survived WWII and/or gave testimonies. Lanzmann probably didn't know then. See more »
Over the past several weeks I had the opportunity to see all of Claude Lanzmann's 9 1/2-hour documentary about the Holocaust. It left me cognizant of a greater tragedy in much the same way that PIXOTE opened my eyes to the humanity on the streets of South America. Like many people who have seen SHOAH I was interested in it primarily because of the degree of praise that this film has received; some critics have called it one of the most important films ever made. Well, now that I have had time to reflect on this film for the past month can I honestly say that SHOAH is one of the greatest films ever made? To answer my own question, it depends on how you look at it.
SHOAH in now way covers the entire scope of the holocaust. Instead it focuses on the people who were sent to three specific concentration camps during WWII. The film also concentrates on the people who were involved in the deportation and execution of those who arrived to the camps. Its last hour is devoted to events that occurred around the Warsaw Ghetto. The fact that this film limits its scope made me aware that this was an account that's too big to be perfectly analyzed and deciphered. It's too complex for a standard 2 hour, 4 four or even the film's 9 1/2 hour length. It's testament to the number of documentaries about the Holocaust which have come out fairly recently. But unlike those documentaries, SHOAH seems less about the Holocaust than it is about people, whether they were the commanders who intimidated the Jews, individuals who had small farms or houses near the concentration camps or even the victims themselves. These are all people who have a story to tell. SHOAH made me think out of the context of the film a lot. The fact that it told me so much about people made me wonder about the loss of the life that occurred during the 80's when the Contras fought the Sandinistas, or when Pol Pot executed his own people, or when Stalin starved his own soldiers during the War. All of these people had a story to tell but you hear very little about these tragedies that fell on their own lives. In a way, that's so unfair. Nevertheless, SHOAH comes closer than any other documentary I have seen when it comes to showing us what makes life so sacred and special.
To be fair, there are long stretches in SHOAH that are less than riveting, and moments when you question the ethics and purposes of the filmmaker. As one commenter candidly pointed out, there are times when SHOAH is more like a chore than an experience but as Claude Lanzmann orders one interviewee during the film, "We have to do it, you know it." And that's why SHOAH has to be seen: It's a real film about a real tragedy, real events, and real people.
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